Kinds of Cemeteries

If you’re planning to investigate ghosts in haunted cemeteries, you’ll need to know which cemeteries are in your community.

Different kinds of cemeteries can provide different research opportunities and results.

An abundance of metal in a haunted Columbus (TX) cemetery.
This Columbus (TX) cemetery is lovely, and has an abundance of related ghost stories. Even in the daytime, visitors may see (or photograph, or record) anomalies.

Generally, I look for cemeteries with graves from the 19th century. I prefer cemeteries that are open to the public from dawn to dusk, or later.

However, if a haunted site has been over-visited or over-researched, its energy can be diluted.

In my opinion, the lingering residual energy — from startled or enthusiastic ghost hunters — can mask older residual energy from the ghost, or impressions from the ghost himself.

So, private cemeteries can have an energy advantage, as long as I can get permission to investigate them.

Here are some categories of cemeteries:

  • Church graveyards, usually next to the church, but they may be moved if the real estate becomes valuable enough to justify the move. (That’s the case next door to Salem’s “Witch House.“)
  • Family plots and cemeteries. They’re where early homesteaders (and others) sometimes buried their relatives. Today, those graves may remain — marked or unmarked — near old homes. Others may have been moved to community cemeteries. (And, in some cases, bodies or body parts may have been overlooked.)
  • Battlefield cemeteries. Sometimes they’re just pits where the bodies were buried, en masse, with or without a marker.
  • Community cemeteries, sometimes built around earlier church graveyards or family plots. Research their history to find out what was there. In some cases, like at South Street Cemetery in Portsmouth (NH, USA), the site may have included a gallows.

I describe other kinds of cemeteries — and some of the pros & cons of researching them — in my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries.

Haunted Cemeteries – Look for Connections

Here’s an interesting pattern I’ve noticed when I’m investigating haunted cemeteries: Where I find one member of a family with a gravestone that seems to stand out, I look for a relative with a second “odd” gravestone.

Usually — but not always — it’s nearby, but not necessarily in the same plot enclosure.

When two or more related gravestones (or graves) hold my interest, there’s usually a story to be told.

For example, the following photos shows the memorial of Capt. Bird Holland. It’s a classic example of the respect given to fallen soldiers in the War Between the States.

This tribute stands out because the inscription is so ornate.

However — for me, as a paranormal researcher — something more than that seemed odd. At the time, I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Memorial to Capt. Bird HollandCaptain Holland was a widower at the time of his death.

His wife, Matilda Rust Holland, preceded him in 1858, after only one year of marriage.

Her apparent grave is unusual, for another reason: Only leaves fill the space beneath the horizontal stone. (I’ve indicated that space with a red rectangle.)

The leaves are inside some ornate ironwork. I assume her body is there, under the ground, but it is an unusual grave design.

Open area at Matilda Rust Holland's grave marker.Recently, my research into the Holland family uncovered an interesting history. Bird Holland may have fathered as many as three sons — Milton, William, and James — by a second woman named Matilda Holland. She was a slave on Bird’s father’s plantation.

During or shortly before the 1850s, Bird purchased freedom for those three sons (but not their brother, Toby, who may have had a different father) and sent the them to school in Ohio.

In the Civil War, Bird Holland fought on the side of the Confederacy.

His son, Milton, was a Union soldier and led the troops in a battle at Petersburg, Virginia.

Both men were heroes.

You can read more of the story here: Milton Holland, born August 1st, 1844, and in the book Texas Cemeteries by Bill Harvey. (If I’d had that information when I was researching in Austin, Texas, I might have had better EVP results.)

My point is: When you see one unusual gravestone, keep it in mind as you continue your research.

When you find a second, related grave that seems “odd,” historical research may improve your investigation results.

Frankly, I’d love to ask Matilda Rust Holland how she felt about her husband’s sons.

And, I’d be interested in how Bird felt about his son Milton’s heroism — being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor — for his valor during the war… fighting for the other side.

Damaged Gravestones and Neglected Graves

When ghost hunting in haunted cemeteries, I always look for damaged gravestones. In many cases, we find paranormal energy around those graves and markers.

Sometimes the person named on them is indignant or grief-stricken over what’s happened.

That’s understandable. The grave was his or her final resting place, and it’s been neglected or even vandalized. There’s no excuse for that.

Usually, there’s little we can do besides offer sympathy and consolation. I’m not sure that’s enough to give closure to the spirit, so he (or she) can “cross over.”

However, it’s worth a try.

The following photos show the kinds of damage I’ve seen — and investigated, successfully — in haunted cemeteries.

(Until the photo gallery is restored at this site, this illustration shows the kinds of pictures I’ve featured.)

Damaged graves

For more information about cemetery research, read my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries.

Every Gravestone Tells a Story

Iron headstone (NH)In the first edition of my book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries, I listed signs and symbols to look for on or near gravestones. The artwork and inscriptions can tell a story.

(Until the photo gallery is restored at this site, the following illustration shows the kinds of pictures I’ve featured.)

Unexpected materials in gravestones

Left to right: Wooden grave marker (TX), iron headstone (Henniker, NH), and a zinc monument designed to look like granite (Nashua, NH).

Note: When I’m selecting graves to investigate, I’m always interested in expensive and ornate grave markers. Among them, I focus on neglected and damaged stones, as they usually tell a tragic story of a once-great family or individual.

When a gravestone was expensive, it usually represents an individual or family with wealth and power.

Since that burial, something changed so the grave hasn’t been maintained. It could be enough reason for a haunting.

 

Haunted Cemeteries – Watch Out for Metal

It would be simple to say, “avoid metal when ghost hunting in haunted cemeteries.”

Unfortunately, the metal issue is more complex. Like many things we encounter when ghost hunting, there are two (or more) sides to this topic.

An abundance of metal in a haunted Columbus (TX) cemetery.
This Columbus (TX) cemetery is lovely, and has an abundance of metal in it.

Metal can retain magnetic charge. That can happen for a variety of reasons, and it’s so common, you must do a baseline check of anything metal near your equipment. You’ll also look for things that might contain metal, including reinforced cement walls and some gravestones that have been mounted with metal supports (inside) or broken headstones repaired with metal.

One of the biggest surprises was when we were investigating a Northfield (NH, USA) cemetery and kept seeing strange, fleeting EMF spikes near the stone wall surrounding the cemetery.

We finally found some barbed wire that a tree had grown around — the wire was barely noticeable at dusk, but we found it on a follow-up visit in daylight (photo below) — and parts of it seemed to retain magnetic energy.

So, look carefully for any metal that might need a baseline check.

However, as I said, there’s another side to this: Metal might attract ghostly energy, as well. We’re still trying to figure this out, but — for now — I recommend looking for metal when you’re in a haunted cemetery. As long as you do baseline checks, so the metal doesn’t skew your EMF readings, you might benefit from nearby metal.

Here’s what I’ve found:

  • Metal — and I don’t mean just shiny, reflective metal — seems to increase the likelihood of orbs. As you can see in the photos, below, orbs show up around old, corroded and mossy metal.
  • We seem to record better EVP around metal in cemeteries. Is it acting like an antenna or an amplifier? I have no idea.
  • Then there’s what seems to happen to metal at some cemeteries. As some photos show, the metal — especially wrought iron — seems to get twisted. It’s unlikely anyone stood there and did that with their bare hands.

The twisting is difficult to explain. Initially, I figured the iron fences had been taken down at some point, and stacked, and some of the metal bent under the weight. Or, I thought a branch might have fallen and bent the metal on impact.

Those are reasonable explanations for some twisted cemetery fences, but that’s not enough to explain the volume of distortion I’ve seen in haunted cemeteries across the U.S. and Britain.

(Until the photo gallery is restored at this site, the following thumbnail illustrations show the kinds of pictures I’ve featured.)

Every (larger) image includes the kind of metal you should watch for, so you don’t get false EMF (magnetic) readings.

Metal in cemeteries

Cemeteries are great places for paranormal research. Just watch out for metal and — of course — the ghosts.